BY Alex Samuels and Catherine Marfin
On Wednesday, the Texas House gave an initial stamp of approval to a bill that would classify fantasy sports as games of skill, not of chance, that are therefore legal.
House Bill 2303 by state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, passed the chamber along a 116-27 vote. It still needs another vote from the House before it can be sent to the Senate for consideration.
Fantasy sports allows fans to draft real players from various sporting leagues to create a fictional team. The players’ real-time statistics are then compiled and the team with the highest overall ranking wins. Fans can track their teams through web sites or apps.
While critics say fantasy sports sites are hubs for illegal online gambling, others contend the games are based on skill and are therefore legitimate. Lawmakers have filed similar measures in the past, but to no avail.
Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding opinion in January 2016 equating fantasy sports sites to online gambling, which is illegal.
“House Bill 2303 simply seeks to clarify state law and confirm that skill-based fantasy sports are legal and therefore not an act of gambling,” Moody said. “It’s very similar to what 19 other states in the country have done in recent years and the United States Congress made this change in 2006.”
Moody’s bill is likely to be the vehicle for fantasy sports legislation this session since two other similar pieces of legislation by state Rep. Richard Peña Raymond, D-Laredo, and state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, have yet to gain traction. Raymond’s bill failed to muster enough support to pass a House committee.
The Texas Fantasy Sports Alliance, a group backed by paid sites FanDuel and DraftKings which allow Texans to compete for prizes based off their virtual teams, have pressed lawmakers to advance fantasy sports legislation.
Recently, the group issued a statement lauding Moody for championing legislation that protects Texans’ right to participate in fantasy sports contests.
“We look forward to continued progress in the Texas Legislature to protect fantasy sports players and Texas-based businesses supporting this industry and this much-need modernization of the Texas Penal Code,” spokesman Scott Dunaway said in a statement.